Labrador Nature Reserve
A minor site in terms of dark tourism, but definitely worth a look when in Singapore
. Apart from being a pleasant tropical nature reserve, it also has some remnants of a coastal battery that played a role in the defence of the city against the attack by Japan
More background info:
For general background see under Singapore
Labrador was home to a set of coastal guns that together with Fort Siloso on Sentosa Island just south-east of Labrador provided protection for Keppel Harbour. The batteries themselves date back to the 19th century, but played a role in WWII
Over the years, as artillery technology evolved, older guns were replaced with more modern ones. There used to be more guns here, and of different types. But in the 20th century Labrador was eventually equipped with the 6-inch Mark VII breech-loading guns that formed its main arms at the beginning of WWII.
Despite the presence of the gun battery, the coastal strip beneath it had remained a popular stretch of waterfront for civilians to use for recreation. In the late 1930s, however, the site was deemed too vulnerable to possible commando attacks, so public access to Labrador was closed off and by 1940 additional fortifications, searchlights, observation and machine-gun posts and barbed wire were added for the battery's protection. Also, at the time there was no forest – all trees had been cleared away to provide unobstructed views. The jungle you see today has all grown since WWII.
The battery was jointly run by British, Malay and Indian soldiers. Their greatest claim to fame is the sinking of a Japanese ammunition ship off the coast on 12 February 1942 – though half of the credit for that goes to Fort Siloso.
The guns were also used to aid the Malay regiment on the Pasir Panjang Ridge in their defence of Bukit Chandu
. Yet in the end they could not prevent the fall of Singapore
Just before the capitulation of the British
the guns at Labrador were destroyed so that they could not fall into the hands of the Japanese
. But a replica (I think) of one of the guns was installed at its original emplacement when the site was turned into a memorial/heritage site almost 60 years later.
What there is to see:
The main thing for most visitors will probably be the one recreated emplacement with a gun (possibly a replica, though that isn't made entirely clear), next to piles of shells, which is “manned” by metal sculptures of soldiers operating the gun (they look a bit too British
, I thought, given that the original guns here had been operated by troops from India
– see above
). The whole ensemble is painted black.
Other emplacements on the hill are without their guns, but the fortifications can still be seen. This includes the casemate at the highest point of the complex. Furthermore you see some old observation posts and ammunition stores, and you can peek into a tunnel that provided access to a whole system of underground storerooms (but you cannot actually enter these).
The whole hillside is these days overgrown, with tall trees and dense undergrowth, so you can't even see the sea from here any more. But that also gives wandering the paths and remnants of the fortifications linked by them almost a feeling of a Ta-Prohm-like “discovery” trek (see Cambodia
At the eastern end of the bottom of the hill by the waterfront stands a red beacon. It's an original from the 1930s, constructed to guide ships into Singapore
's Keppel Harbour. Nearby, at the foot of the hill, one of the machine-gun posts from the late 1930s/early 1940s survives – it's basically a little pillbox bunker. Across the water you can see Sentosa Island, where Fort Siloso forms Labrador's counterpart with its own coastal gun battery.
All along the various points of interest in Labrador Park, there are English-language plaques and text-and-photo panels providing quite detailed historical and technological information about Labrador and its gun batteries.
about 4 miles (6.5 km) to the south-west of the city centre of Singapore
, just south of the Southern Ridges and opposite Fort Siloso on Sentosa Island.
Access and costs: A bit off the touristy centre, but reachable by public transport; free.
As the location is rather out of walkable reach from Singapore
's city centre, you'll need public transport. Fortunately, Labrador Park has its own MRT station (CC27 on the yellow circle line, which connects to the purple north-east line at HarbourFront). The station is, however, not directly at Labrador Park, but a ca. 10-minute walk from it. Alternatively you can also get a bus for the short distance, provided by line 408.
The park is freely accessible at all times.
Smokers be aware that this is designated a smoke-free park!
Applying insect repellent before exploring the forested hillsides is strongly advised!
Time required: about two hours or so.
Combinations with other dark destinations:
The nearest other dark site covered here is Bukit Chandu
, which is some 1.5 miles (2.5 km) away by road. You could walk it all, but given the humid heat of Singapore and the steep winding street for the last half a mile or so, you may want to consider taking a taxi at least part of the way. That's what I did.
Even closer, and even more thematically related, would be Fort Siloso just across the water on Sentosa Island, but there are no boat connections so in order to get there you'd first have to get back to HarbourFront and get the cable car or other transport to the island from there.
Combinations with non-dark destinations: Labrador Park is also a nature reserve and as such a haven for birds and other (smaller) creatures, such as squirrels and lizards. The lush dense tropical forest is also pleasant to explore in general. However: since it is also home to mosquitoes and other biting bugs, you should douse yourself well in top-grade insect repellent.
- Labrador 1 - coastal battery
- Labrador 2 - iron-hard fighters
- Labrador 3 - another former gun emplacement
- Labrador 4 - probably a former ammunition store
- Labrador 5 - old fortifications
- Labrador 6 - tunnel
- Labrador 7 - dense jungle
- Labrador 8 - machine gun post
- Labrador 9 - at the waterfront, opposite Fort Siloso